The moveable feast : The Lissanevitch legend


Once upon a time, not so very long ago, an adventurer and gourmet opened the first hotel in Kathmandu. Called The Royal Hotel, it had a restaurant called The Yak And Yeti. And it was run by one of the most colourful characters in South-Asia, Boris Lissanevitch.

Boris loved food, loved it more than dancing with the famous Daighilev’s Ballet Russes, more than going around the world performing cabarets and eating his way across South-East Asia as a big game hunter. For Boris, his food was what he was about.

And as we write about The Chimney Restaurant this week, we know that echoes are felt in the building that once housed The Royal Hotel but is now host to the EC as Nepal goes to the polls.

You see The Yak And Yeti Restaurant morphed into The Chimney and the name Yak And Yeti was given to a great hotel in Kathmandu.

At The Chimney Restaurant they have kept Boris’ signature dishes so that those in quest of legend and great food have a place to go.

Said Surendra Chand Thakuri, Marketing and Communication Manager, “Journalists come here for memories of Boris and then stay and are delighted by his food.”

The heartiest soup in Nepal, Boris’ Russian Bortsch — rich in beetroot and vegetables is defined as a Ukraine Bortsch or a Bortsch flotsky, which is a delight in potatoes, carrots, sour cream, sprinkled dill and onions. A combination of rich tastes warms you.

As does The Stroganoff, a delight in meat, mushrooms and wine in a cream sauce that is thick and warming and was a favourite of Czar Alexander III who got it from Count Pavel Stroganov, and a French chef Charles Briere took it to France, then the world. The cream is slightly sour to add another flavour. A Stroganov descendent declared it perfect.

When the Ballet Russes played Italy, Boris perfected Italy’s Osso Bucco which came from Milan and is a stew of veal knuckle that has a hole in it. Hints of wine and onion and tomatoes make for many a last spoonful. It is as tender as a touch and the gravy is a reduced miracle.

“We are trying to keep the spirit of Boris’ menu”, said Pralhad Kunwar, the new General Manager, who truly knows his food and beverage but he realises in a day of fast food, fine dining requires a little pushing. After which there are repeat customers.

Restaurant Manager Pradip had the two Shrestha waiters bringing dish after dish.

There was a Sea Food Sizzler which Boris had in the 300 Club he ran in Calcutta. Shrimps Jumbo Prawns and Bekti are bound together in the most delicate shrimp butter sauce. Your taste buds are kept guessing. Deliciously.

Chef Basnet is continuously working Boris’ menu rather like Boris himself did saying things like, “Too many tomatoes today” in a particular dish or adding more Worchester sauce to The Yak Tail, Boris’ version of the Bloody Mary.

Like Boris he seeks perfection.

Rather than Boris’ crepes, which were called the Yeti’s Smile, we had a Baked Alaska, which is a blend of ice cream, sponge cake smothered in cream and brandy and baked and then set a flame. It was invented by Charles Ranhofer, the famous chef of Delmonico in New York when Alaska was given to the American by the Russians. Boris got the recipe from the restaurant.

Boris searched the world for great food and when he settled in Nepal in 1952, he brought all with him. And it is still here. Call 4248999, 4240520.